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Hackney-born actress discusses the gate to success

HIGHER BEING: Emma Dennis is happy to be starring in GATE

EMMA DENNIS stars in new play GATE at the Cockpit Theatre, London. Her previous stage work includes After Orlando, Upper Cut and Clean to name a few.

The Voice caught up with the 29-year-old to talk about the new play, future plans and dreams of making it in America.

Q: What inspired you to start acting?

Emma Dennis: Originally, I waned to be a broadcast weatherologist, which is basically a weather girl. I figured the best GCSEs to do would be drama and geography, and I wasn’t very good at geography, but I ended up being quite into drama and really enjoying it.

I got into the BRIT school, and I think that’s probably the first time I took it seriously. I definitely wasn’t one of those kids that was like, ‘I want to be an actor’. Going to BRIT school opened me up to that world.

Q: What age did you start acting?

ED: I went to Anna Scher when I was 11. I was about 16 when I started taking it seriously.

Q: Tell me about your new play, GATE?

ED: It’s a comedy, set at the gates of the after life. I play the guardian of the gate – Eve – and her job is to prepare everyone for their interview with the higher being. Unfortunately, the four people she gets this time are pretty awful – they have all sort of flaws and faults, and Eve isn’t sure she’ll be able to get them up. So the play is about their preparation process and coming together to try and work out where they come with this higher being, while questioning spirituality and faith. It’s loads of fun.

Q: What is the message of the play?

ED: Why do people choose to have faith? That’s the big question. That’s what we’re really exploring and what it means, and that’s our big message. We want the audience to think about their faith and what it means to them, whatever that may be – Christian, atheist, or whatever – but exploring why people have faith at all.

Q: Did you enjoy playing that character?

ED: I loved it, it was so much fun. She’s a real local girl, set in Wapping, so she’s a proper East End girl who’s trying to make the best of it. She’s the type of girl you see on the bus into work at 9am and out at 6pm and will be doing that until she retires.

Q: Was it easy getting into character?

ED: She’s quite similar to me in a lot of ways, so yes. She reminds me a lot of my friends from east London – the way she speaks, her cockney accent – so it’s been fun doing that. It’s also been interesting because, as an actor, none of our characters are race-specific, so Eve is just a character.

Q: What’s been your favourite acting role to date?

ED: Good question! I did a play a few years ago which was called Clean, in New York. My charac- ter Zainab was very fun to play – she did credit card fraud and we were video game characters.

Q: Would you consider doing more work in America?

ED: Absolutely, especially with television, with the era of Netflix domination.

Q: Are there more opportunities for black actors in America?

ED: I would say there are more opportunities because there are more things happening and it’s a bigger industry and a bigger market for black actors there – but more actors also means more competition. London is my home, I love it here – but I am definitely looking at the states as a market I’m interested in, because I want to be acting for the rest of my life.

Q: Have you done any TV work?

ED: No – but I would love to do some. My friend and I have been working on something recently, so have been writing for screen – I’m a writer as well as an actor.
We’re developing some stuff for TV, which will hopefully be on at some point next year. I’ve also been developing a web series – but acting-wise, we’ll se what happens next.

GATE runs at The Cockpit, Marylebone, until September 24. Tickets, £20, are available at thecockpit.org.uk.

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